Day Sixteen – Saint Andrew

40DAYSBLOGThe Orthodox Church takes apostolic succession very seriously; the preservation of “the faith passed on to the apostles” is maintained by the physicality of the ordination of bishops by bishops, all of who can trace the history of the ordination of the bishops who ordained them back to one or more of the apostles themselves.  You probably already new that.  But there is another part of that respect for the apostles that you may not know of: the ranking of autocephalist (i.e. independent) national Churches.  The Canons (especially those of the Council of Trullo) give prominence to the five  ancient patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  

However, some do not believe that Constantinople should be in that list.  Fr. Thomas Hopko, among others, argue that the rise to prominence of Constantinople – to include granting it the title “Ecumenical” – had much more to do with it being the center of the Roman empire than anything else.  Fr. Thomas argues that this secular move was then given spiritual legitimacy by an apocryphal (and allegedly false) claim that Saint Andrew had traveled to the site of the future city of Constantinople and established a real live Orthodox Church there, appointing Stachys as the first bishop (Fr. Hopko’s latter claim is contestable: there are many early sources that point to Saint Andrews evangelical work through that area).  

In my Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, we celebrate Andrew as the “First-called, founder of Christ’s Church in Ukraine.”  Some (to include Fr. Thomas) put this, along with the claim that Andrew founded a Church in Constantinope, in the category of pious hyperbole.  But as with that claim, the claim for Ukraine has merit: St. Andrew did minister in the region.  Nestor the Chronicler was not creating this account out of whole cloth; 

When Andrew was teaching in Sinope and came to Kherson (as has been recounted elsewhere), he observed that the mouth of the Dnipro was nearby. Conceiving a desire to go to  Rome, he thus journeyed to the mouth of the Dnipro. Thence he ascended the river, and by chance he halted beneath the hills upon the shore. Upon arising in the morning, he observed to the disciples who were with him, “See ye these hills? So shall the favor of God shine upon them that on this spot a great city shall arise, and God shall erect many churches therein.” He drew near the hills, and having blessed them, he set up a cross. After offering his prayer to God, he descended from the hill on which Kyiv was subsequently built, and continued his journey up the Dnipro (The Primary Chronicle of Rus’).

Note that there is no claim that St. Andrew established an actual church in the place that would become Kyiv, only that he stayed there and prophesized the growth of Orthodoxy there.  Despite this, we honor this event that tied our Church to the life and ministry of the First Called Apostle Andrew, and, through him with the Church of Constantinople, every time we proclaim it.  This link with Constantinople received its institutional realization in 988 when the King of Kyivan Rus’, Volodymyr, baptized his nation under the omophor and guidance of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  A thousand years later (in 1996), it was reaffirmed when His Beatitude Constantine (of blessed memory) and His Eminence Archbishop Antony united the theretofore autocephalous UOC of the USA with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America as an autonomous Church under the Patriarch of  Constantinople.  This radical act of kenosis (humble, self-emptying love) was remarkable, witnessing to the Orthodox world the kind of humble strength and sacrifice necessary to bring about Orthodox unity here and elsewhere.  

Would that others followed their example.

O Holy Apostle Andrew, pray to God for us!